7 Things to do in Croatia
In recent years, Croatia has transformed from a hidden gem of coastal delights to one of the hottest travel destinations in Europe.
What makes this small Balkan nation so appealing? Is it the brilliant, sapphire waters of the Adriatic and spectacular white beaches? Or maybe the medieval architecture and walled towns steeped history begging to be uncovered? Or perhaps it’s the friendly, welcoming people and unique folk culture?
While Croatia’s hot spots- Dubrovnik, Split, and Hvar- are well known, there are hidden gems to be found among the country’s coast and islands. Before you set sail, add these to your “must-do” list…
1. Walk Ancient City Walls
Whether it’s your first time in Croatia, or you’re back for another adventure, you have to spend some time exploring the country’s incredible walled towns. At times, you’ll feel like you’ve traveled back through time rather than through the Adriatic to arrive here. Walking Dubrovnik’s medieval walls will give you an excellent feel for the city and its history, as well as some beautiful views. Plan to spend at least an hour on your stroll, especially if you really want to take in the sights and snap some photos, as you’ll also find several towers and forts to explore.
2. Feast on fresh seafood
The cuisine of Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast is known for Greek and Italian influences. While cruising there, take every opportunity to dine on the region’s fresh, local seafood. Squid, shrimp, octopus, lobster, oysters, clams, and mussels are abundant. Crni rižot, a risotto made with cuttlefish, is a particularly popular local specialty. Marinated sardines and fish stews are two more must-try dishes.
3. Cruise the Inside Passage
One of the most remarkable aspects of a Croatian cruise actually occurs onboard, not inland. A voyage to Croatia wouldn't be complete without cruising the beautiful inside passage. Only small ships can navigate this narrow passage of fjords, so double check that this will be possible on the cruise line you choose. Larger cruise ships can't fit–and are they ever missing out! The scenery as you pass through the fjords is like nothing else. Get your camera ready, as you'll want to capture the scenes of rugged, mountainous coastline and picturesque islands.
4. Go for a spin
For many, there's no better way to explore a new city than on a bike. You can move at a faster pace than on foot, yet still remain connected to your surroundings. You can take in all the sights, sounds, and smells, and stop for photo opportunities whenever you please. Here are four areas ideal for touring by bicycle:
Korčula: A beautiful city located on an equally beautiful island. Start in the city and make your way east toward the village of Lumbarda. Along the way, you'll ride past old vineyards, medieval villages, and soak in spectacular views of Saint Ilija — a limestone mountain peak situated on Croatia's mainland.
Zadar: Old meets new in Zadar, one of Croatia’s most underrated and eclectic cities. The city boasts as rich a history as other Croatian towns, but also offers a unique artsy atmosphere. Zadar is off the beaten tourist path, which only adds to its appeal.
Konavle Valley: Start in Gruda — a picturesque village outside of Dubrovnik. Pedal your way through the countryside, passing vineyards and cycling along the Ljuta River before looping around and returning to Gruda.
Hvar: Hvar asserts that it's the sunniest place in Europe, and even has the numbers to back up the claim, averaging 2,724 hours of sunshine each year. And what better way to spend a sunny day than with a bike ride? At the end of your day be sure to hit the beach, have a cocktail, and watch the sun set.
5. Visit vineyards and taste local wines
Croatia's hilly countryside is home to picturesque vineyards and olive groves that you shouldn't miss visiting. Croatia may not be the first country that springs to mind when it comes to wine, but they're not to be overlooked. The industry here has a history dating back more than 2,500 years. Ancient Greek settlers produced wines on the Dalmatian islands of Korcula, Hvar, and Vis. Today there are more than 300 defined Croatian wine regions — not bad for a country about the size of the state of Maine.
6. Fall in love with Krka’s waterfalls
Krka National Park is one of Croatia's greatest treasures. The park surrounds the 72.5-kilometer-long Krka river, as well as the foothills of the Dinara mountain range. For all the beauty this park radiates, nothing defines its landscape quite its seven spectacular waterfalls.
The largest of the waterfalls is Skradinski Buk, a sight you must see with your own eyes to truly appreciate. Pack your camera and a swimsuit. You'll definitely want to snap a postcard-perfect vacation photo here, and you may even want to go for a dip!
7. Explore Dubrovnik after dark
Beyond being a city filled with history, Dubrovnik is spectacular at sunset. Travelers who love a good photo opportunity should make their way to one of these three photogenic places to spend an evening in Dubrovnik:
The Top of Mount Srđ: If you time your cable car ride just right, you'll be at the peak of Mount Srđ for sunset.
The City Walls: There are three entrances to Dubrovnik's City Walls, and the operating hours vary from month to month. Walk the walls later in the day to catch the glow of the sun setting in the distance.
Uvala Lapad: Lapad is one of Dubrovnik's most famous beaches, second only to Banje. During the day, it's a popular spot for swimming or sunbathing. At sunset, it's the perfect place to stroll the boardwalk or sip a cocktail at a waterfront bar.
Day or night, Croatia is a pure delight. And there’s no better way to spend time here than on a cruise!
Check out other things you can see and do in my Croatia travel gallery.
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